A new free to air channel from one of the world’s largest names in entertainment should be something to get get excited about, but the UK launch of the Paramount Network is sadly a pretty damp squib.
Available to Freeview, YouView and Sky viewers, the channel arrived earlier this week with a measly standard definition-only version and a schedule littered with shows that have already been axed or ended.
Yes, it’s true as the PR boasts that Paramount is giving the UK free-to-air premiere to the Marvel Avengers spin-off Agent Carter (already shown on Fox) and Kiefer Sutherland’s Designated Survivor (available on Netflix), but both of these shows were axed in the US due to falling ratings having suffered a serious quality drop in their second seasons.
Also debuting on the channel in coming weeks is sitcom The Mick, another show axed after its second series.
The channel is also repeating the first season of Teen Wolf (the final series of which aired in the US last year and all six seasons are available in the UK on Netflix), which has already been shown by some of its Channel 5 siblings after Sky dropped the show.
And there’s also Heroes Reborn, a three year old, one-season show that already aired on 5* which, like the Paramount Network, is part of the Viacom/Channel 5 family of channels.
The only show that’s likely to generate much excitement is Megan Markle’s final season of Suits, which is also available elsewhere.
Propping up this line-up of largely axed TV shows is a familiar line-up of films that can be routinely seen on any other free-to-air channel.
Those considered exciting enough to warrant mentioning in the press release include: War of the Worlds, Dances With Wolves, The Shining, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Groundhog Day and Roxanne.
This line-up seems a long way removed from the boasts made by Viacom who bill it as “the channel with big stories and big characters for adults of all ages with strong appeal to Generation X, Millennials and fans of cinematic storytelling, iconic moments and non-stop action.”
One of the channel’s executives boasts it’s “a popular premium content destination in a free-to-air world” while another is “convinced” the channel “will resonate strongly with British viewers given Paramount’s distinguished and successful history of epic, cinematic story-telling for global audiences.”
Those are some big claims, but exactly which “fans of cinematic storytelling” want to watch a standard definition channel and where are the “millennials” who want to watch long-ended shows with unresolved plot lines?
Is a line-up of axed shows and decades old films littered with ad breaks really what audiences see as “premium content”?
I’d be surprised if that turns out to be the case.
Beyond the hyperbolic claims, Viacom seems to have delivered the cheapest possible channel launch it could manage without harming the Paramount brand.
It’s hard to see how this line-up can pull viewers away from established channels – for example the UKTV network – which offer original, genuinely first run content.
The BARB numbers are going to make some interesting reading in the weeks and months ahead.